Imagine for a moment that you were the apostle Peter. After insisting that you would never deny Jesus, you vehemently declared that you were not Jesus’ follower and had never met the man, after Jesus was arrested to be crucified. But then after the resurrection, Jesus comes and takes you aside and for each time you denied him, he asks you, “Peter do you love me?”
John 21 gives us the account of this restoration of Peter by Jesus. Grace was extended and Peter found forgiveness, though the memory of everything pained him.
After restoring Peter, Jesus went on to tell Peter about the way he would one day die:
“When you were young you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” ~John 21:18
The tradition of church history tells us that Peter was arrested and crucified upside down under the reign of Nero. Whether all the exact details are so, Jesus’ words made it clear to Peter that his death would be costly and forced against his will. Yet, with this information, Jesus still said to Peter, “Follow me”—this the same call that Jesus gives to all of us when he tells us that we must daily take up our own cross (Luke 9:23).
In response, Peter turned and saw John (“the disciple whom Jesus loved”) nearby and following them. Peter then replied to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?”
“If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” (21:22)
In other words: “Mind your own business. I wasn’t talking to you about John, I was talking to you about you.”
A life of following Jesus does not come with sure promises of riches, fame, ease, or health this side of death. No doubt, some receive and do great things through their faith. Hebrews 11 lists several Old Testament people who were faithful to God and gained riches, power, and even life back from the dead. After this, however, Hebrews 11 also speaks about unnamed others who were forced to live in caves, on the run, arrested, beaten, and/or sawn in two.
Our experience of life will be no different. Some who follow Christ will see many good things in life, and live long and healthy. Others who follow Christ will see many hardships, and die young and poor. Most will experience something in between.
On our journey of faith, we might be tempted to point to others who we think are getting a better deal and say, “Lord, what about him? What about her?” Jesus’ answer to us is the same: “I’ll worry about them. You follow me!”
This post is part of our ongoing journey through the Bible as a church.